1 Feb 2009

Bush fire threat in Victoria still critical

10:02 pm on 1 February 2009

Victoria's record-breaking heatwave has eased, but the bushfire threat remains critical across the state even though a major blaze in the state's east has been contained.

Victorian Premier John Brumby and Emergency Services Commissioner Bruce Esplin on Sunday appealed for vigilance as the state's north again sweltered in 40 degree plus temperatures.

Mr Brumby said the Delburn blaze which has razed more than 6,000 acres near the townships of Boolarra, Yinnar and Mirboo North in East Gippsland was now largely contained, while another outbreak sparked by lighting near Licola was still cause for concern.

Fire authorities confirmed that the Delburn fire claimed 29 houses, 64 sheds, five cars, a truck and a piggery.

The fires are believed to have been deliberately lit and have been burning out of control since Thursday.

Milder weather conditions on Saturday and Sunday allowed more than 500 firefighters to build containment lines around the blaze.

Mr Esplin said lives may have been lost if the community had not been well informed.

"A number of people chose to depart their properties because they weren't defensible and we may well have lost lives if people had not been part of that community education process," he said.

But he said the different agencies involved in fighting the fire would need to investigate why so many properties had been lost.

Mr Esplin emphasised while the threat may have passed in the Latrobe Valley, the Licola fire was still a concern as more lightning strikes had been forecast for later on Sunday.